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Online PnP RolePlaying: How can this be done?

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Earlier today, I had a discussion with a friend of mine. On the phone, of course, because my friend doesn't live anywhere near me. We were recounting how fun those nights were when we could play RPGs till so late at night that it was already early in the morning. We mourned our long lost days and nights of RolePlaying fun, crying over the distance when we evoked the possibility of playing over the net. The first idea that sprang was playing over MSN. But after analysing the fact, we came to the conclusion that it was an improper tool. It only allowed one on one voice chat, even if it accepted multi-chat when written. It certainly allowed the inclusion of ambiance music, and even of a playlist if you're smart enough, but seriously limits the inclusion of graphics, even the crudest. If you are limited by the speed at which you type, then the fastest typer is the one who gets the more attention from the GM. And the dice rolls are all on one side of the screen, and no one can check you're not cheating. Maybe limiting the RolePlaying part to typing would be better. But not good enough yet. The second was something more like a teamspeak server. Again, it limits the voice recognition, as the voices overlap quickly and are not easily recognizable. What is more, there is no way to add graphics, or music, or anything to it, unless you use a third party. So the only solution that seemed left to us was to create something from scratch to allow our old groups to reform over the distance, and to play over the net. So let me show a little bit of design there. As a GM, I would like to have a tool a little like a map drawer, or a building drawer, something quick, that enables me to draw beforehand, and can be zoomed in and out. A bonus would be to be able to import said plans into something like paint, to place a dot to represent a PC or an NPC, and move it around on the screen, plus being able to draw lines on it, to represent movements would be nice. Being able to voicechat with a better recognition of voice, more like Skype than TeamSpeak, and hopefully, to cast some music as background. Maybe as a GM or a player, being able to limit the direction of speech would be interesting. Third, I would like my players to be able to visualize their statsheet onscreen, through tabs, maybe, so that the screen isn't encumbered, and the GM to be able to have access to all sheets without having to ask. Fourth, and more important, what I would call "GM Screen". I would like the dicerolls of the players to be public, so noone is cheating the GM, but the rolls of the GM to be hidden until the GM releases the result as public, this way, a GM can always alter the result by changing the result before making it public. Fifth, the connection. I don't know exactly how MSN is working, but I suppose I would like something a little akin to that. A sort of "room" in which two people meet, and then wait for others to come in. Before the game is started, they can chat freely, and they can also do that while the game is on, provided they chat "privately", instead of the multiplayer channel. So now. Is this feasible? Would it be feasible by one of you? What kind of features would need to be removed to make you do it more easily? (I won't accept "all and go back to MSN" as an answer.) What kind of alterations to the design would you, as old PnP players and GMs yourselves, make? I don't even know if something like that already exists nowadays, and don't even know how to search for it over the net. There are plenty of tools for helping a GM prepare his adventures, but not one that I am aware of that makes the players gather. Can anyone provide an insight?

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Another feature that mightn be good to add is a video link. These can be turned off and on at both ends (so even if someone is using the video link you don't have to see it - for those with low bandwidth internet connections).

As a P&P GM here is a list of features that I think would be useful:
Note: The host is usually considered the GM, but not nessesarily so.

1) Audio link: Multiple channels with the ability to mute/unmute them as desiered. Also the ability to set channels to record as individual files (this way if a lot of talk is happening you can go back and listen to them individually). Also there would be channels for sounds and music.

2) Video Link: As stated above, the abilit to turn "send" of and on as well as the ability to turn "Recieve" off and on. Also a player can, instead, send a static image (or animation file) of their character with this if desiered.

3) Text link: Standard text chat features (emotes, etc).

4) Whiteboard: This is a general drawing area. Several whiteboards can be set up and can be manipulated by the players and GM. The creator of a Whiteboard can lock and unlock others use and view of it. It will also need an ability to have layers (individual layers can be locked/unlocked its use for specific players), alpha transparencies, and other general drawing features (so the GM can create a map and then erase the parts that the players can see). All these can be saved at their current status.

5) Character sheets: These would be interactive character sheets (a bit like a form). Players (and GMs) will be able to design the layout and enter and change data on the sheet. Also certain calculations can be scripted into the form (this will allow forms to have certain parts automatically filled in).

6) Dice roller: Dice can be assigned to a player or GM. These dice can be labled public, private or restricted (and these can be changed during play too). Pubilc Dice all players and GMs can see them, Private Dice can only be seen by the roller and Restricted Dice can have a set of players (and GM) that can see it.

7) Group Management: The host can assign players (they have a username and password) to and from a group or the "known players". Characters can also be assigned from a "Known Characters" to a specific player or between players. Groups can be created or deleted, merged, split, etc.

8) Resource Management: Allows the players to manage any resources (sound files, graphics, videos, whiteboards, etc). These can be linked to a particular group and have various settings (able to be modified or not, etc) and can be shared between groups. There would also be a "Directory" structure (that is not dependant of the file system directory structures).

Well tha tis a bit off the top of my head.

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Ah, yes!! The ability to split the group and create and transfer people from one chat room to another... I had forgotten that need for a GM...

The visual aspect is pretty important too, but not as much as I thought. I would have never included video. I simply didn't think about it. The ability to put a .jpg or a .gif for your avatar would be nice, allowing the best programmers to put animations for their characters, a little like Blue Mountain's animated avatars for MSN. But that's going a little far for a restricted program, isn't it?

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Most people I know use webRPG to play online, but that may be because it has been around for a lnog while and it is what they are used to rather than it being the best option.

http://webrpg.com/

As a warning when I checked I had the link right just now there was a rather annoying and loud (sound) flash add on the side.

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One could make a chat-RPG, where the DM starts the chat session, then players can log in, and when rolling dices, the GM rolls in secret(as usually, nobody can really know if he cheats, at least I never did when I played 'pen & paper' RPG), players are granted rolls by the GM, for what ever a player needs to roll for, and everyone can see the outcome. No player can make a roll, if not granted by the DM.

...just an idea for 'how can we know if they cheat on their roll'.

...And again other stuff could be implementet in this chat-RPG.

Base idea: you play in real-time, with who ever wants to play at that time.

the bad things could be if playing with people from other timezones, and if no one wants to be a GM. But then again, maybe the software could be engineered, so you could make an adevnture, then the players(all those playing together) could download the adevnture, and the software itself might be able to act as the GM.
(not sure if a DM built in the software is possible to make though, and it would give some restrictions in play)

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I have been recently doing some scripting for NWN and though of how simple it is to create a map with it. Using a tile based system you could rapidly create a map for the plaeyrs to wnader around in (all actions done are coordinated by the GM - so no scripts).

This could be used for combats. The GM could place monster icons onto the battlefield and move them (click and drag). The players could have their own icons that they could also move around.

There would be no gameplay in this, and any player may move their icon at any time (it is all enforced by the GM).

The idea behind this is like haiving a tabletop minatures setup. Just as on a realspace table, the players and GM must enforce the rules, so too would they in the virtualspace table.

By having it as a 3D modeled landacape (and 3D icons/character icons with basic animaitons), it would make thie experience quite vivid (I would use such a representation in a tabletop/PnP game).

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Sounds like all you need is webcams and microphones. You can point a webcam at miniatures or maps or scribbled notes or whatever as needed.

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